Andrew Russell has changed his focus and expanded his game on the basketball court.

The 2015 Central Crossing High School graduate used to think offense first and defense second, but since getting to Wilmington College, Russell has come to relish his efforts on the defensive end of the floor while becoming a versatile performer for the Quakers.

"Three years ago, I would have said offense was my favorite part of the game but right now I'm working to be more of a defensive player," Russell said. "That's a big part of the program at Wilmington, and you have to be able to hustle and play defense in the (Ohio Athletic Conference). Defense is what I have been taking the most pride in."

Not that offense has been a struggle for Russell, who averaged 9.9 points and 4.0 rebounds last season. The 6-foot-9, 205-pounder started at forward as the Quakers finished 9-16 overall and 4-14 in the OAC.

As a freshman, Russell started 22 games, averaging 7.7 points and 2.8 rebounds. In his career at Wilmington, he has shot 140-for-336 from the field (41.7 percent), 65-for-190 on 3-pointers (34.2 percent) and 71-for-89 from the free-throw line (79.8 percent).

"Andrew is such a versatile guy," coach K.C. Hunt said. "He's 6-9 and is a pretty good 3-point shooter. He's starting to figure things out and the best is yet to come."

Russell has moved all over the court for the Quakers. He normally plays small forward, but also has moved out to shooting guard and has gone under the basket to play power forward as well as center.

"My role is to be anything coach needs me to be," Russell said. "Going into my first year, I was just honored to get a starting role. That was a true honor.

"I have been a little all over the place. I have been a (power forward) on defense when they need a bigger body to get down low and a (small forward) on offense, but I can be a (shooting guard) and go inside-out. It makes it tough for certain teams to guard me."

As a senior at Central Crossing, Russell led the Comets by averaging 13 points and 6.7 rebounds. He was named honorable mention all-district in Division I and second-team all-OCC-Central Division.

With the Comets, Russell played under Anthony Mangette, who now coaches at Mifflin.

"The coaching staff at Central Crossing really helped my transition into college play," Russell said. "One of our assistants, Josh Chandler, pushed me a lot. He pushed me a lot more than I would have pushed myself. We had extra workouts after practice. Even to this day when I see him, we talk and I tell him how much having a role model like him has helped me."

The transition to college was a big one for Russell, not only in talent but conditioning. The switch from playing four quarters in high school to two halves in college was especially difficult.

"The tempo might be the hardest thing," Russell said. "You have a quarter break in between in high school and now you just get halftime. The tempo is crazy fast, and it's tough if you aren't ready for it.

"There's a lot of conditioning, a lot of start-and-stop conditioning. During the season you live in the training room, taking care of your body as much as possible. It's a long season and a challenge to stay healthy all year."

Hunt is excited that Russell still has two seasons remaining with the Quakers. He believes Russell's potential has yet to be tapped.

"Andrew has the ability to defend multiple positions and he will only get better," Hunt said.

"He needs to continue to work on his ball-handling and we want to continue to challenge him to score around the basket. He's taking steps toward being the all-league player that we think he can be."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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